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closed captioning
Student Project Makes Chemistry Learning More Accessible
21 February 2019

When a student with a hearing impairment signed up for Chemistry 110B, Professor Philip Bevilacqua was faced with a challenge: how to make the many YouTube videos that are a vital component of the course accessible to the student. The videos are an important learning tool, allowing students to deepen and apply their knowledge outside of class time. Dr. Bevilacqua took the problem to his Learning Assistants (LAs) for the course, asking them to help come up with a solution to ensure that all students in the course were able to appreciate and utilize the YouTube videos. “It was a challenge to provide closed captioning to over 50 different videos,” said Dr. Bevilacqua.

Inspired to make sure that all students in the class had a positive learning experience,  LA Isabel Friedenberg—who is a sophomore majoring in biology with a minor in Arabic—spearheaded the closed captioning team, which consisted of fellow LAs Ellie Alberti, Emily Kim, Madelynn Holderman, and Friedenberg herself.

Closed Captioning

From left to right: Emily Kim, Dr. Bevilacqua, Isabel Friedenberg, and Ellie Alberti

Friedenberg worked with Dr. Bevilacqua to learn how to closed caption the videos.  Once they had learned the process, the closed captioning team spent hours each week painstakingly correcting a rough Google version of the transcript.  They added necessary chemical and mathematical symbols and formulas, and helped oversee the efforts of. Afterward, each video was posted to YouTube for all the 110B students to utilize.  “It was a unique opportunity to directly impact the students of CHEM 110B,” Alberti says when asked why she decided to join the team, “watching videos online has always been an extremely useful learning tool for me, so I was excited to be able to enhance that experience for these students!”

The team say that they saw firsthand the difference that YouTube could make to student learning. “I think that this closed captioning project was useful for the students because it allowed students to have a written out explanation of what the video had iterated,” Kim explains, “This allows students to learn better since they are using both their auditory and visual senses.”

Their hard work paid off. Thanks to the closed captioning team, every student in the class was able to benefit from all the resources available to them and take away something important from the class. “I liked the idea that students who were unable to hear, could still get extra help watching the videos,”  Holderman explained, “I felt as if I, along with the other closed captioners, were making a difference, by giving every student an opportunity to learn the same as everybody else.” Friedenberg also had a positive take away from the experience. “This endeavor was also very rewarding to me on a personal level,” she said, “My hope is that these videos, though seemingly small, helped these students move forward with their education with as few obstacles as possible.”

Accessibility projects like this are making a big difference when it comes to fulfilling the Eberly College of Science’s goal to promote an inclusive environment for all members of the ECOS community and to advance the representation of diverse communities within STEM fields. For her part, Friedenberg hopes that her efforts inspire students to pursue careers in the science. “Hopefully, I’m helping students realize that a disability shouldn't be the reason that they do not pursue their dream profession or degree,” she explains.  Dr. Bevilacqua agrees and adds, “Many other students used the closed captioning and reported that it enhanced their learning as well.”

Although Friedenberg won’t be involved with Chemistry 110B this semester, she’s hoping to be back as an LA in the fall. “I would love to do more with this type of project,” she added when asked about her future plans regarding the class, “I’m always on the lookout for new and exciting opportunities.”  Take a look at this example on bromine reactivity to see the team’s work in action.  

The closed captioning team provided the following brief primer on closed captioning:            

  1. Wait for YouTube to make a first attempt at cc: This happens quickly, within a few hours typically.

  2. From Video Manager, find your video in the RH box. Click on the “V” next to “Edit” next to your video and choose “Subtitles/CC”

  3. Choose “English”, “Set Language”

  4. Click on “English (Automatic)” under “Published”.  If re-editing, choose “English” below “English (Automatic)”.

  5. On the new screen click on “Edit” in the upper RH corner.

  6. Run video and edit as needed. Choose the blue “Save changes” near the top right of the screen.

  7. When done select CC so it will autoload with closed captionings. Of course, the user can click their own CC to turn it off!

Communications Coordinator